December 29, 2022

What Is Noise In Photography?

Noise is one of the most common problems photographers face. It can be the difference between a sharp, professional photograph and a picture that looks like it was taken on a flip phone. So, what is noise in photography? 

In most cases, noise is an excessive amount of digital data, which appears as grainy spots or speckles in the final image. It is usually caused by shooting at a high ISO setting, in low-light environments, or simply due to poor image processing.

Suppose you are looking to reduce noise in your photographs. In that case, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know, from understanding what noise is to identifying it in your photos and finally learning how to eliminate it.

What Is Noise in photography?

Noise is a common problem in digital photography, and it can ruin an otherwise perfect image. Have you ever noticed grainy spots in your images? That’s noise!

Three friends walking down the street. What is noise in photography?

Noise can be frustrating, but it’s a problem that can be solved with the right knowledge. To reduce noise in your photos, you first need to understand what causes it.

What Causes Noise in Photography?

To know how to prevent or reduce noise in your photos, it is crucial to understand what causes it. There are several factors that can contribute to noise in a digital image.

1. Your ISO

A close-up image of a camera's settings.

The first and most common cause of noise in photography is shooting at a high ISO setting. When you increase the ISO, you may be able to shoot in lower light conditions. However, this also increases the amount of digital data that needs to be processed, which can lead to noise in your images. This happens as the camera sensor struggles to capture enough light, resulting in a noisy image.

2. Poor Image Processing

Another common cause of noise in photography is poor image processing. This can occur when using software that needs to handle the digital data correctly or when images are compressed for file size without proper optimization. Poor image processing can also produce noise if you’re not following standard post-processing workflows.

3. Outdated Equipment

Finally, outdated equipment can be a cause of noise in photography. For example, if you are using older lenses and camera models with low-resolution sensors, you’ll likely experience more noise in your images.

Modern cameras and lenses are much less prone to noise, so upgrading your gear can greatly reduce noise in your photographs.

How To Reduce Noise in Photography

Noise can be frustrating. It can make photos look grainy or blurry, and it can decrease the quality of an otherwise good image.

However, there are ways to reduce noise in photos without having to use any fancy software or tools. Below, we will outline the top five tips that you need to know to reduce noise in your photos.

Tip 1: Use a Low ISO to Prevent Noise

The best way to reduce noise in your photos is to use a low ISO setting. Using the lowest ISO possible, you can ensure that the camera has enough light to capture details without increasing digital data and creating noise. Generally, it’s best to stick with an ISO of 400 or lower when shooting in bright conditions.

For instance, your ISO should be set to 200 or lower if you’re shooting outdoors in the daytime. If you’re shooting indoors or at night, your ISO may need to be higher and can range up to 800 or 1600. However, if you find that noise is becoming an issue, try decreasing the ISO until the noise level is reduced.

Tip 2: Shoot in RAW to Maintain Image Quality

Shooting in RAW can be a great way to maintain image quality and reduce noise. When you shoot in RAW, the camera captures the entire data set from your images and stores it uncompressed on your memory card. This allows you to edit the photos later without any loss of quality or increase in noise.

Tip 3: Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

Another way to reduce noise in your photos is to shoot in aperture priority mode (A/Av). This will allow you to set the aperture and let the camera choose the correct shutter speed for the image. By using a wider aperture, you can let more light into the camera, which will help reduce noise in the final image.

Tip 4: Utilize Noise Reduction Software

If you find that noise is still an issue in your photos, you can use noise reduction software to reduce its visibility. There are a variety of different programs available that specialize in noise reduction. Look for ones that have features like noise reduction algorithms and adjustment sliders to get the best results.

Tip 5: Bring Extra Lights!

If you make a habit of bringing either more or more powerful lights to every shoot, you won’t find yourself having to crank up your ISO to expose your image properly. In photography, there’s no such thing as a light that’s too bright! Well, ok, maybe there is (we don’t want to blind anyone, after all). But the problems that arise from a light being too bright are easier to compensate for than those that arise from a light not being bright enough.

Can Noise Be Removed from Photos in Posts?

Yes, noise can be removed from photos. However, it is essential to note that eliminating noise will also remove some of the detail and sharpness in the image.

A student editing an image on a computer screen.

To reduce noise without losing image quality, try following the tips above before resorting to software correction. Even then, reducing noise with a light hand is best to preserve as much detail and sharpness as possible.

In programs such as Lightroom, there is a built-in option to apply noise reduction. As long as you use it sparingly, you should be able to reduce noise without sacrificing too much image quality.

The Bottom Line

Noise in photography can be a problem for both amateur and professional photographers alike. And when it shows up in your photos, it can be difficult to remove without sacrificing image quality.

It is much easier to take steps to prevent noise in the first place by using a low ISO setting, shooting in RAW, and ensuring there is always enough light to guarantee a sharp image. However, you may still find that noise sneaks into your photos from time to time.

If that happens, you can use noise reduction software or the built-in features in programs such as Lightroom to minimize its effect. Just remember to take a light-handed approach when applying these adjustments so you don’t lose too much detail and sharpness in the process.

With these tips in mind, you should be able to capture quality photos with minimal noise. Good luck and happy shooting!

Want to take your photography to the next level? F.I.R.S.T. Institute can help with that. F.I.R.S.T. offers hands-on courses that are designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills you’ll need to be successful in the photography industry. You can learn more about our photography program here.